By Neale McDevitt
Some marched smartly through the Roddick Gates to take part in yesterday’s Remembrance Day ceremonies on Lower Campus. Others were pushed in strollers by their moms and dads. Some came between classes at McGill, while others took time off from local high schools with the blessings of their teachers. Some were cadets, others were soldiers, sailors and aviators. Many were veterans and many more were civilians. Some wore medals, almost all sported poppies.
Yesterday, thousands of people from all walks of life came to the University for one common purpose – to honour the memory of those who have served our country.
For the fourth straight year, the Royal Canadian Legion hosted its observance on the lower field. As in past years, the hour-long ceremony had its share of military trappings, complete with pipe and brass bands, a flyover by two helicopters and a 21-gun salute from McGill College.
But, borrowing a page from the Macdonald Campus Remembrance Day ceremonies held on Nov. 5, organizers also included a large contingent of local high school students in the proceedings.
Prior to the ceremony, high school students planted more than 1,000 paper poppies and 250 crosses on a section of the parade grounds, to pay tribute to those who fought and died for Canada. Later, in the ceremony, more students laid wreaths and paper poppies at the foot of the cenotaph. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, several hundred students joined the military procession marching from the site, proudly carrying the banners of their respective schools.
Wreaths were laid by a number of dignitaries and special guests including Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre; newly elected Liberal MP for Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs, Mark Miller; and Therese Guerette, the mother of slain soldier Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was targeted and killed last year in St. Jean sure Richelieu.
McGill was represented by Principal Suzanne Fortier; Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance); and Kip Cobbett, Chairman of McGill’s Board of Governors.
Perhaps the most moving portion of the ceremony was the stirring rendition of The Last Post, after which people observed two minutes to honour those who have fallen in conflicts around the world.
At ceremony’s end, the people who ringed the field and crowded the McLennan Terrance, broke into a spontaneous ovation when the military personnel began marching from the parade grounds to the sound of bagpipes and beating drums.
As the last military unit passed through the Roddick Gates, people broke ranks to gather around the cenotaph.
Naval officers removed the poppies from their lapels and lay them on the base. A young man did the same, kissing the tips of his fingers and touching the cenotaph. People placed old photos and handwritten notes amid the growing number of mementoes. Finally, an elderly veteran approached the cenotaph and gently placed a large poppy among the smaller ones. People took his picture with their cell phones and a woman came over to thank him.
In the distance, the skirl of bagpipes began to fade until it could not be heard at all.
Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge each picture. All photos by Neale McDevitt.